Book Review: With You Always

29 Jun

When a financial crisis in 1850s New York leaves three orphaned sisters nearly destitute, the oldest, Elise Neumann, knows she must take action. She’s had experience as a seamstress, and the New York Children’s Aid Society has established a special service: placing out seamstresses and trade girls. Even though Elise doesn’t want to leave her sisters for a job in Illinois, she realizes this may be their last chance.

The son of one of New York City’s wealthiest entrepreneurs, Thornton Quincy faces a dilemma. His father is dying, and in order to decide which of his sons will inherit everything, he is requiring them to do two things in six months: build a sustainable town along the Illinois Central Railroad, and get married. Thornton is tired of standing in his twin brother’s shadow and is determined to win his father’s challenge. He doesn’t plan on meeting a feisty young woman on his way west, though.

 

Winner of 2016 Christian Book Award for fiction and Christy Award for historical romance, best-selling author Jody Hedlund writes inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults.

Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).

When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.

 

My Impressions:

Jody Hedlund writes excellent historical fiction, and With You Always is no exception. In fact, of all the novels I have read by Hedlund, this one is my favorite. Meticulous research, rich historical detail, complex characterization, and precise plotting make this book a truly exceptional read. I expect this one to go on my best of the best list this year earning it a highly recommended rating from me.

Elise Neumann and Thornton Quincy come from two very different worlds. In 1857 America, class distinctions are prevalent with resentments and prejudices on both sides of the divide. Elise is a German immigrant trying to support her siblings in the poorest area of New York City, while Thornton is the son of an ultra-wealthy land developer. The two meet and are immediately drawn to each other, but differences of birth and circumstances, not to mention a conniving twin brother, work to keep the two apart.

With You Always is a wonderful historical romance novel. Hedlund brings to life a time in American history I knew little about. The plight of immigrants and the poor are detailed as women travel the route of the orphan trains hoping for a new life. New York City of the 1850s with its disparity between the opulence of the rich and the squalor of the poor is vividly portrayed. Characters of both classes are well-developed and real — no stereotypes in this novel! While I loved Elise and Thornton, many of the secondary characters captured my heart as well, especially Fanny, a woman who had more than her share of heartbreak and abuse. Sadly, many of the accounts in the novel are based on real-life events — the gang riots, prostitution, physical abuse by employers, etc . But Hedlund infused With You Always with a message of hope — hope of God’s power, presence, and protection. As Elise contemplated the hardships she and her family and friends endured she came to believe the truth her mother had shared years before — When she was hurting and crushed by the weight of heartache, was God there holding on to her hand, telling her He’d never let her go? With You Always is rich in history and faith and . . . a very satisfying romance. Elise and Thornton have much to surmount, but a happy ending is definitely in their future.

With You Always is the first installment in the Orphan Train series and there are many stories left to tell. I can’t wait to travel along.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: older teens and adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Bethany House and the author for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

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2 Responses to “Book Review: With You Always”

  1. Sue July 2, 2017 at 11:35 am #

    Really enjoyed this book and imagine that she will follow through with stories about the sisters. I heard a local Wisconsin writer talk at a library about his grandmother who was an orphan train transplant. Turned out that she ended up marrying and settling on a farm on the same road that I grew up on, about 15 miles away. Like so many “orphans” she was not truly an orphan, but from a large family with no means of taking care of everyone. Clark Kidder has written two books about the subject, one tells his grandmother’s story and includes research on the children’s homes of the east and the other tells the story of one of the “agents” tasked with finding homes for the children. Although his grandmother finally settled in Wisconsin, she first landed in Illinois and Iowa, and Kidder worked with Iowa Public television to produce an Emmy award winning documentary on the orphan trains. Thought you would be interested in knowing this. I think his works can be found on Amazon. When I read Hedlund’s book, I held it up to the facts I had learned from hearing Kidder speak, even though his grandmother’s experience was later than the time frame of this book. I was pleased with Hedlund’s take.

    Like

    • rbclibrary July 3, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

      The Orphan Train era is very interesting. I read Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline and really enjoyed it. It focused on children a little later than this timeframe. The subject seems to be popping up everywhere! By The Book’s June selection, Yankee in Atlanta, had it as a subplot. And I saw a Hallmark movie (Love Comes Softly series) last night that featured children that were placed by the Children’s Aid Society. This was also later than With You Always timeframe.

      Thanks for the info on Clark Kidder. I’ll be sure to check it out.

      Like

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